ALRANZ President Dr Tracy Morison’s Speech on the presentation of Our Open Letter

ALRANZ President Dr Tracy Morison’s Speech on the presentation of Our Open Letter

Dr Morison was not able to be present to deliver her speech in person, so we present it now.

Kia ora koutou katoa,

Sometimes the unthinkable happens. You say to yourself, “This can’t be. Surely not. This could NEVER happen”. The morning I woke up to find out about the supreme court document leak and that Roe v Wade was in danger of being overturned, I thought “No. Surely not!” In such moments, there is a temptation to sit back and think “it will be OK. It won’t happen, that is unthinkable”. 

Why do I say unthinkable? Quite frankly because the overturning of Roe v Wade will invite tremendous suffering, and even deaths. Suffering for women who are unable to support a pregnancy for a range of reasons, especially for poor women, women of colour, and all those who struggle already to access sexual and reproductive healthcare in the US, including members of the rainbow community. 

We cannot sit back, close our eyes, and cross our fingers. We cannot wait and hope that good will prevail. The recent past has shown us that the unthinkable can and does happen—we need only look around at how climate disruption and COVID have changed our world. We know that sitting back and hoping does not change anything. So, today is about more than hopes and prayers. Today is about speaking out. Today, we join with countless others to implore the governments of the USA and Aotearoa New Zealand to act on the fundamental freedoms of women and other people who may experience pregnancies they cannot support. We urge them not to allow the overturning of Roe v Wade and to stop the injustice that will ripple out across the globe. 

On that note, I want to use this opportunity as a reminder that a large proportion of the world still does not allow abortion on request. And, even in countries that do, the right to abortion does not always translate into access or into access for all. We have watched as state-imposed restrictions on abortion care have proliferated over the years in the USA, rolling back access, and undoing decades of struggle. The US situation highlights how the “plethora of convoluted laws and restrictions surrounding abortion do not make any legal or public health sense” (Berer). This issue is primarily about power and control over women and other marginalised groups, and we must widen the focus as to consider WHY this may be happening in the US and in the rest of the world. 

The USA joins several other countries in rolling back access to abortion, most lately El Salvador and Poland.  We heard recently how in Poland, Ukrainian refugees who have been raped cannot access abortion services. What do such moves against bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom say about the place of women and other minority groups in society at this moment in history? And, importantly, how do we respond to what appears to be a global backlash against the gains made for reproductive rights? 

We are mistaken if we think that this is an isolated problem. The attack on Roe v Wade may be the proverbial canary in the coal mine, however. If women’s rights and minority rights can be brazenly rescinded in a country that has long considered itself a beacon of democracy and a leader of the free world, what can this mean in other countries that consider themselves free and democratic? What can this mean in countries that don’t?

Some may accuse us of being alarmist, but history has shown us time and again that the unthinkable can and does happen. Having the U.S. follow the conservative trend of reducing abortion access is deeply worrying, because of the global influence that it enjoys. The USA is a powerhouse in the policy arena, as we have seen with the Global Gag Rule, an anti-abortion policy that risks the health and lives of millions around the world. The USA also powerfully shapes values and views across the globe. Could the US restriction on abortion rights embolden conservatives here in New Zealand, and in other countries? It’s unthinkable, but it’s not improbable. We have very recently seen the influence of conservative US faction to home. The recent “Freedom” convoy protests held at parliament buildings and beyond were fuelled by US-produced anti-vax sentiment and social media content and rife with pro-Trump and other right-wing US paraphernalia.

But this isn’t only a matter we should be worried about because of how it could impact our own country. As Audre Lourde, the mighty African American activist-scholar, famously declared: “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” We, here in Aotearoa NZ today, enjoying our second year of abortion law reform, are not free. We are not free while our sisters and siblings in the USA face this egregious assault on their reproductive freedom. We are not free while places like Poland and El Salvador ban abortion. We are not free while abortion is still considered a crime in the UK and heavily restricted in much of Africa and South America. We are not free when women are promised reproductive freedoms by the Left hand and robbed of these by the Right. 

So today, we take note of the situation in the US as a call to action. We speak out, standing in solidarity with those who are unfree. We oppose the threat posed to United States citizens’ fundamental civil and human rights by those supporting the severe and unreasonable curtailment of access to abortion services. We call upon the United States government to protect the fundamental right to bodily autonomy by allowing anyone to end a pregnancy if they so wish. We call upon the government of Aotearoa New Zealand, to join us in condemning this attack on fundamental human rights.

Thank you to each and every person and organisation who stood in solidarity and signed our Open Letter, and to each and every one of you here in support today. Join us as we proceed to the US Embassy where we will hand over the letter urging action and providing some recommendations to the US government. 

We hope that you will continue to support us as we watch the situation in the US unfold and as we continue to advocate for reproductive rights here in Aotearoa New Zealand, and beyond. 

Alutua conitua – the struggle continues!

Book Review: The Lie That Binds

Book Review: The Lie That Binds

by Margaret Sparrow

All eyes are now on the US with the prospect that Roe.v. Wade will be overturned by a decision of the Supreme Court, 49 years after it was passed. How and why has this come about? 

This book is not the latest word on the topic but I found it when I was exploring what our American counterpart NARAL Pro Choice America has to say on the situation in the US. NARAL was formed in 1969 just two years before ALRANZ. Like us they have campaigned over the years for reproductive freedom. Ilyse Hogue was born in 1969 and served as President of NARAL for eight years from 2013-2021, retiring last year. 

Before she retired she put her thoughts into writing and together with NARAL researcher, Ellie Langford, published this book which I strongly recommend for anyone who wants to understand more about the Radical Right in America. It was written before the November election which saw President Trump defeated and is entirely devoted to understanding the strategies of the opposition.

The research is meticulous and one third comprises the 1,424 references to statements made. It is not an easy read and there are some typos but for those who don’t want to read a serious examination of the strategies employed by the Radical Right NARAL Pro Choice America has produced excellent podcasts, companions to the book, which bring the main characters to life with sound recordings of their most egregious pronouncements.

What is the Lie? The lie was perpetrated as far back as the 1950s by extreme right campaigners who purported to be concerned about abortion as a personal issue, a moral issue and to protect women, but whose intention was much wider -to maintain political control and power for white, racist, religious, sexist, misogynist, males, the “moral majority” upholding traditional family values, and opposed to women’s rights, ERA, pay equity, contraception, sex education and gay rights. In reality abortion was a Trojan horse, a means of bringing in ultra conservative policies, upholding the patriarchy, supporting religious fundamentalism and maintaining white supremacy.

The Lie that Binds traces the evolution of some of the most dangerous forces in U.S. politics, designed to thwart social progress in a changing world, and thereby threatening democracy — built around the foundational lie that it is all about moral convictions and individual pregnancies. The extent of deliberate misinformation and outright lies is astonishing. When focusing on women became problematic (that is losing women’s votes) the strategy changed to focusing on the fetus.

When Roe v. Wade was introduced abortion received equal support from Democrats and Republicans. The book traces the capture of Republicans and most recently Trump by the religious right. It is realistic. It will take a long time for the stacked Supreme Court to change but judges don’t live in a vacuum and public opinion is important. There is hope for the future in the knowledge that for many years surveys have consistently showed that the majority of the American public support access to legal abortion. Currently it is about 77%.

What lessons can we learn for New Zealand.

We must be vigilant. We must call out misinformation when it surfaces, and keep on campaigning for reproductive justice, reproductive rights and reproductive freedoms. We must focus on health issues -health care delivered with dignity and compassion. These strategies will keep us on the right path to reducing stigma and inequity 

ALRANZ condemns potential overturning of Roe v Wade in United States

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa is deeply disturbed by the leaked draft opinion of the United States Supreme Court that purports to overturn the constitutional right to abortion. Abortion is a fundamental human right and, if the leak is accurate, the decision will jeopardise millions of Americans’ access to necessary reproductive healthcare.  


Despite being profoundly disappointed, ALRANZ is not surprised. ALRANZ spokesperson Ella Shepherd said “women in America have been warning us of this trend for years. This decision would be the culmination of decades of systematic efforts to erode women’s reproductive rights. The decision fails and endangers pregnant people in America”.


Striking down Roe v Wade would be a significant injustice falling hardest on those already struggling to access reproductive healthcare, including abortion. Shepherd continued “the overturning of a nearly-50 year old precedent is a stark reminder that women’s rights and reproductive rights more broadly are vulnerable to erosion”.


“Even though New Zealand legalised abortion in 2020, we must remain vigilant to ensure the right to abortion is preserved and abortion is accessible in Aotearoa. The United States has demonstrated that public opinion being overwhelming in support of legal abortion is not sufficient to protect the right”.


ALRANZ would remind everyone that abortion remains legal in all 50 states until the decision is formally released. For those who wish to show support, ALRANZ recommends donating to an abortion access funds in states such as Texas, Oklahoma, and Mississippi where abortion is already restricted.



On access, privacy, & safety

I went to university in a small town in the American South – a tiny island of moderate politics in a swathe of conservative rural counties. There was a small abortion clinic a few blocks north of down town that served several neighbouring towns and counties (87% of American counties have no abortion provider. In non-metropolitan areas, that number is 97%.). In the era of increasing limitations on access to sexual and reproductive healthcare, hours had been cut back and the doctor was only on site a few hours, one day a week.

A group of anti-choice protesters, some students and some older town residents from the nearby churches, occupied the sidewalk every week, rain or shine. The tiny plot of land only had parking for a few staff cars, so patients had to park across the street at the big stationery store. The clinic, understaffed as it was, relied on volunteer escorts to accompany patients across the street and past the protesters to the clinic.

It wasn’t just about supporting patients. Fatal attacks had occurred at two other clinics in the state and at others around in the country. Although Dr George Tiller hadn’t yet been murdered while ushering at his church, he had been shot and his Kansas clinic bombed in two separate attacks. Eric Rudolph, who planted bombs at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, two clinics, and a nightclub, had recently plead guilty after five years on the run. Arson and bomb threats occurred nationwide; dealing with threats and suspicious packages was standard training protocol for new staff.

At our clinic, escorts were briefed on buffer zone laws. The security guard kept a small, worn notebook, where he recorded details about each and every protester – arrival and departure, their behaviour, who brought their children, a record of calls to the police to report harassment. Some silently prayed well behind the line, but others frequently harassed patients.

My class schedule often conflicted, and so I didn’t spend as many afternoons at the clinic as I should have. Escorting was emotionally draining for us – I can only imagine what patients must have felt walking through a crowd of scorn and judgement, flanked only by a couple of young students. Yet many still stopped us as we led them into the reception area, turning to smile or quietly whisper ‘thank you.’ It broke my heart every time.

One of my first afternoons, I was there with two other friends. Holidays were coming up and students were heading out of town, so the protesters were down to the locals – the middle-aged man with his horrific sign and the Catholic woman with the line of children and rosary beads. We were chatting about our weekend plans when a car pulled up and stopped in the drive. We tensed – there were no appointments left that day – and glanced nervously at one another.

A thirty-something woman got out of the car carrying a little vase of carnations with a ‘Thank You!’ helium balloon tied to the vase. She walked over to us and said within earshot of the protesters, ‘Thank you. You were there for my sister when no one else was. You don’t hear it enough, but there are a lot of people who are grateful for what you do. Please pass this on to everyone inside.’ Dumbstruck, we smiled, clumsily strung together words to thank her, but she was back in her car and pulling away.

And so we cried. For her generous gesture, her sister, every patient, every doctor, every receptionist, every partner, friend, or family member who held a hand or offered a ride, every woman who suffered an unsafe abortion, for those who have felt the heartbreak of discovering a foetal anomaly, for a culture where our first reaction to an unexpected visitor was fear, and for a society where a trip to the doctor had become a political act requiring courage, security, and personal risk just to get in the door, never mind the complexity of the decision to choose abortion itself.

I know that New Zealand is not the United States and I sincerely hope the import of American anti-choice rhetoric stops with harassment, misinformation, and ribbons. But shame, stigma, and ill-informed judgement hurt even when not accompanied by pipe bombs.

Safe, private access matters, not just to patients, but to everyone. The receptionists, the nurses, the janitorial staff who clean the building, the staff and customers of neighbouring buildings – everyone who ensures that women have the ability to make private decisions about their own health. Choices about fertility, pregnancy, and abortion are complex and challenging in the best of circumstances. Women do not enter into them lightly and it is insulting to assume otherwise.

The Family Life International ‘vigil’ outside Wellington Hospital insensitively affects patients, staff, and visitors to the hospital, the majority of whom have nothing to do with abortion services and are likely facing their own challenging situations. It is difficult enough to be admitted to hospital or visit loved ones who are ill without being bombarded by chanting and stigma.

I do not contest FLI’s right to judge and disagree with the choices of others – I believe that informed discourse is the foundation of a free society – and while I personally doubt the efficacy of shaming others into supporting one’s view, I respect their decision to choose these tactics. I do, however, question their sincerity in promoting ‘a spirit of unity’ by disrupting the lives of innocent hospital patients and staff. There is a time and a place for respectful debate, and there is a time to allow individuals to seek medical services in private.

This was written by an ALRANZ member and reflects the author’s individual opinion. Please get it touch if you would like to share your own experience or thoughts on our blog.